Queen Charlotte Strait, on the northern extremity of Vancouver Island, is prone to fog and formidable chop in northwesterly winds. (Tor Johnson/)
I’d never leave the Sunshine Coast. All there is up there are bears and bad weather.”
Having sailed Keala, our Jeanneau 44i, from her birthplace, La Rochelle, France, across the Atlantic, we found ourselves talking to a gregarious fellow sailor at a yacht club in the warm, protected confines of Sidney, British Columbia, in the lee of Vancouver Island. I told him of our intended voyage, up the inside of Vancouver Island with my sister and her family to Port McNeill, where we’d meet my father, now 94 years old, and his lady friend, Christine, for a cruise north to the next island chain, Haida Gwaii. I’d make the return trip doublehanded along the rugged west coast of Vancouver Island with a surfing friend from Hawaii.
“Lots of fog up there too,” replied our new friend.
In a life of sailing around the world, my father, Donald, has wrung more salt water out of his socks than most of us will ever see. He dislikes sitting in the harbor. The world is full of “harbor-sitters,” as he calls them, trading “horror stories” of deadly gales over drinks while waiting for perfect weather conditions to leave the dock. Although he has been called adventurous, or even reckless, over the years, depending on the observer, I’ve always known him to be a very cautious captain who took my brother, sister, mother and me safely across two major oceans to places as varied as Norway, Turkey, the Philippines and Vanuatu. In all those miles, I can’t recall ever being in a dangerous sea. As kids we missed a lot of school, but we came back with skills such as celestial navigation, and the experience of standing a night watch with the safety of everyone aboard in our young hands.